Appleby Series Book 2
Lilayni & Damon
She made one fatal mistake and lost him.
Now fiery French girl Lilayni Perrot is in Manhattan on a mission to win back the man she loves, at any cost.
But billionaire Damon Solarin won’t be won back. He comes from a gritty past and his trust once lost is lost forever. He knows an empty promise of love when he hears it. Lilayni left him once. She shouldn’t have returned. Now his plans for her have nothing to do with love and everything to do with warming his bed. Because revenge is sweet.
And more disaster lurks around the corner for Lilayni. The nemesis that tore her and Damon apart isn’t finished with her. There’s now an even greater price for her to pay.
Lilayni’s time is running out. Her only hope is to convince an unyielding Damon of her love before threats and secrets destroy them both once again. This time forever.
– STANDALONE contemporary romance with steamy love scenes (readers 18+)
– Full-length novel: 212 print pages.
Read sample chapters below.
“I liked the twists I didn’t see coming in this one. I was glad to see a peek in to the others (Molly and Jake). I really loved the ending and epilogue.” (Amazon US, September 05, 2016)
“It is a fantastic romantic book with a lot of action not once did I get bored. So much was happening I will highly recommend it.” (Amazon US, August 28, 2016)
“From page one your hooked in and just cant help fighting alongside Lilayni. Its very intense lots of twists and turns that leave you grasping each turn of the page. Very well written and very descriptive transporting you into the story.” (Goodreads, September 03, 2016)
“I enjoyed book #2 in this series. It was well written and edited. The main characters were easy to fall in love with, and they had great chemistry.” (Goodreads, September 09, 2016)
Teeth bared and claws sharp, the cold panther hunted in the middle of Manhattan. A predator, it tensed ready to pounce, and water dripped from its colourless fangs, like crystal blood.
With a shiver, Lilayni Perrot stepped back into the shadows of the imposing ice sculpture. The big cat looked about as approachable as the man she hunted tonight. She ran nervous hands over her slim figure-hugging dress. It reached mid-thigh, leaving her shapely legs open to notice. And its green colour—a darker emerald than her eyes—made her wavy red tresses glow as they flowed down her back almost to her waist. A light but artful touch of make-up to enhance her beauty, and she stood out a mile in a crowd of the most expensively dressed people in New York.
She needed that. She needed to stand out tonight. She needed him to notice her and not take his eyes off her.
He didn’t know she was here, and surprise was her only advantage. Now if she could just dig up the courage to approach him. But she took another step back, moistening suddenly dry lips with the tip of her tongue.
People milled about in the hotel’s chandelier-lit grand hall, men in sharp evening suits and women in rainbow colours of designer wear: short sexy minis all the way to floor-sweeping ball gowns. Glasses clinked and laughter rose among the flowing chatter. Manhattan’s big shots were out in force on a mild September evening to back their favourite charities.
But business was happening too. Deals were being made and finalized with the shake of a hand or a clap on the back. And like a star in its element, he was there, in the middle of a group of business men standing off to one side of the hall and ignoring everyone else as they talked.
He out shone them all.
His six-foot-four frame placed him above most in the group. And the fitted layers of his dark suit couldn’t hide a formidable muscular build like that of a star rugby player. His black hair and beard were cropped close and neat, highlighting his striking features. But it was the way his light-copper eyes glowed against his dark skin, almost as if lit from within, that caught people’s attention and held it.
Nobody took just one look at Damon Solarin. And when that sinfully handsome face broke into an easy grin, you were lost forever.
“Champagne?” A young waiter popped up by her side, expertly balancing a tray of champagne flutes in one hand.
He was lanky and blond, probably not much older than her twenty-six years, and the smile he gave her was one of pure male appreciation rather than anything professional.
“Non merci.” She winced a little at falling back into her mother tongue because of the distraction.
His smile widened to a grin. “French, huh? I’ve been to Paris, myself. You from there?”
He looked nice, but he must be new to his job because from her experience of these exclusive functions the wait staff were supposed to be seen and not heard and certainly not chatting up the guests. She glanced around to make sure they hadn’t come under the watchful eye of one of his managers. Better to end this chat swiftly and send him on his way before he lost his job. “I am from Nice. If you will excuse me?” She flashed him a friendly smile and made to move away.
“You… er… here with someone?”
“I…” She looked to where Damon stood oblivious and far from her. “I am.”
“Oh.” Disappointment dimmed his eyes as he followed her gaze to Damon. Then he frowned and a knowing look dawned on his face as he glanced back at her. He looked her up and down. “I’ll wish you luck then,” he murmured, and turned to leave.
Heat coursed up her cheeks. Maybe he wasn’t such a stranger to parties like this after all, because it sounded very much like he’d pegged her as one of those women who made a career out of coming to these functions and targeting the billionaires in attendance. But wasn’t that exactly what she was doing? And wasn’t she more desperate than most? She’d woken up in France yesterday and crossed an ocean today to make it to this fundraiser. Only because Damon was going to be here. But to know her desperation showed on her face to all and sundry made her squirm with embarrassment.
“Wait!” She stopped him in his tracks. Really his only job here was to serve champagne and not pass judgement. And with haughty dignity she took a champagne flute from his tray. “Merci.” Giving him a polite nod, she stalked away.
But it didn’t matter what anyone else thought. It didn’t matter how they judged her. She’d come here for a reason and hiding wouldn’t help. She had to go to Damon. Had to make him see her again.
The champagne flute cooled her fingers as she made her way to the centre of the hall, and she took a quick sip. She hadn’t planned on drinking anything tonight. She needed all her wits about her. Besides, the nervous butterflies crowding her stomach had made the thought of alcohol unbearable. But the chilled champagne had a surprisingly calming effect, and she took another sip.
Damon was still talking animatedly to several men in the group and being half-turned away from her, he hadn’t seen her yet. He smiled at something the man opposite him said, cocked his head to the side and rubbed a hand over his dark beard as if considering. Then he nodded and spoke again, his hand gestures expressive as he said something that had his companions laughing in response.
Her steps faltered. That friendliness wouldn’t likely be extended to her tonight. Damon was charming when he chose to be. And his fierce intellect saw people for exactly what they were. He could be more diplomatic than a diplomat, but cross him, and as she had now learnt to her cost, he gave no second chances.
In the month since they’d parted he’d barely acknowledged she was still alive. But she couldn’t forget him so easily. Her heart wouldn’t let her. She’d given it to him once and it had never wanted to return to her since. Maybe today he would finally listen and forgive.
And on a deep breath she forced her feet forward, taking her closer to him.
Her stomach dropped like a stone, but quickly pasting on a professional smile she turned to face the tall man approaching her. “Cass. It is a surprise to see you here.”
Cass Walker was a Hollywood darling. And though he was always behind the camera never in front of it, he carried off the whole hot-surfer-dude look magnificently with his chiseled good looks and his dirty-blond hair scraped back in a fashionably short ponytail. He was also one of her clients, having engaged her for the interior design of the thirty-million-dollar Beverly Hills’ mansion he’d bought last year.
“I’m on a financing drive for a movie and this is one of the best places to be tonight.” He surveyed her appreciatively. “Last I heard, you were in France. It’s a bit of a bonus running into you here.”
His blue eyes shone with interest and she shot him another polite smile. If ever there was a man convinced of his irresistibility to women, it was Cass Walker. When she’d worked for him, she’d been under no doubt he’d wanted to be more than just her client. It had been before her doomed affair with Damon, but even back then she’d been leery of jumping into meaningless quicky relationships. She’d only been with one man before Damon—a college sweetheart who’d grown distant once she’d moved to New York. Cass didn’t know it, but he was sniffing up the wrong tree with her.
She took a step away. “It was nice meeting you again. I wish you success with your project.”
“Hold on, Lilayni. How long you in Manhattan for?”
“I have not really decided…”
Cass smiled, a lopsided grin that would have had most women dropping flat at his feet.
Idiot! She berated herself. She should have told him she was returning to France first thing tomorrow morning. Or better yet, tonight.
“I’m here a couple of days myself, but now I’m tempted to stay longer.” He moved closer. “What say we ditch this place and find somewhere quieter?”
She took a nervous gulp of her champagne, her usual battery of excuses for politely turning men down not cutting it in this case. How to say no to an ego-heavy film executive without losing a future client and potentially the whole of Hollywood in the process? This was one business manoeuvre her long-term mentor Mimi Lalique had never taught her.
“Cass Walker.” The deep rich voice behind her had her stiffening.
Damon sauntered up to them, tall and powerful, his teeth flashing white with his smile and his striking eyes assessing as he looked at Cass. Her breath caught as his musky wood scent floated over her, stirring a remembered craving deep inside. She couldn’t tear her gaze from him.
But ignoring her, he held out his hand to Cass. “I’m—”
“Damon Solarin.” Cass grasped his hand in a firm handshake. “You’re no stranger in these parts.”
Damon inclined his head in acknowledgement. “I heard good things about this new project of yours. I’d be interested in knowing more.”
“You would?” Cass straightened, his eyes gleaming with the prospect of business, and Lilayni completely forgotten in the process. “I hadn’t pegged you as a potential, to tell the truth. I’ve heard you’re not into high-risk investments.”
“Times change, and I’m looking to widen the company’s portfolio a bit.”
“Well, I could give you a rundown now.”
Damon smiled, and with a barely noticeable step eased closer to her and slipped an arm around her waist. She stiffened, quickly taking another gulp of champagne to hide her shock. This was the first time he’d touched her in a month.
“I won’t take your time tonight, Cass. You probably have others to catch before they leave. Have your people arrange a meeting with mine, and we’ll go from there.”
“Yeah, I’ll do that,” Cass said, a small frown creasing his brow as his gaze dropped to Damon’s arm around her.
“Have a good evening, Cass,” Damon said, flashing him another smile. “If you’ll excuse us?” And with that he urged her away.
She reached just above his shoulder in her high heels, still she had to almost run to keep up with his long purposeful strides. But all she could think about was his arm still around her. Heat flowed to her from the comforting solidness of his body and she glanced up at him, needing to say something, anything. But his jaw was set and he stared ahead, all sense of the relaxed charm he’d used with Cass gone.
They reached the entrance to the hall and she hesitated, digging back on her heels a bit.
Now or never.
She had to stop him from putting that wall up between them again. “Damon, we must talk.”
He stopped in his stride and released her, and she ached inside at the sudden sensation of loss. But then his stony gaze rested a moment on the bare skin above the low neckline of her dress, and she had to fight the urge to bring her hand up there in a protective gesture.
Her necklace. The one he’d given her. The one that was no longer there.
He’d had it made specially for her, a delicate gold chain and its pendant: a fiery oval-cut ruby surrounded by a halo of glittering black diamonds. He’d meant it to symbolize the two of them together, and she’d proudly worn it everywhere in the eight months she’d been with him.
Please don’t let him ask where it is, because if he did she would have to lie. She had to get it back, and soon, otherwise things would never be right between her and Damon.
“Where are you staying tonight, Lilayni?”
She stared at him, nonplussed, the question unexpected. “Here in the hotel. I have a room.”
Reaching out, he took the champagne flute from her hand. “Then I think it’s time you called it a night.” He glanced past her and gave a small nod. “Roger will see you to your room.”
She looked over her shoulder to see the familiar form of Roger, Damon’s bodyguard, coming towards them. Roger was ex-military, tall and lean, with cropped ginger hair and sharp light-blue eyes. He was solidly built, but was nowhere near as imposing as Damon. Seeing the two of them together, most people would wonder why Damon needed a bodyguard, but Roger was more than that. He was Damon’s right-hand man, and if Damon wanted something done, Roger made it happen.
“Make sure Miss Perrot gets to her room,” Damon said to him.
Roger gave a brisk nod and then waited expectantly for her.
She glared at Damon. “I do not intend to go to my room. Not yet.”
“That’s enough partying, don’t you think?” He held up her champagne flute. “Or where you working up to ending the night with Cass Walker?”
She gasped. “I was not going anywhere with him, even if you had not shown up.”
“Then there’s no need for you to stay on here.”
He turned away, but she caught his arm. “Damon, I came to speak to you.”
“Get some sleep, Lilayni. You had a long flight today. You must be tired.” And with that he strode back into the hall, leaving her chagrined beside a patient Roger.
* * *
Lilayni waited for the elevator in the hotel’s wood-panelled lobby, while Roger loomed like an unnerving dark-suited presence beside her. She shot him a glance from beneath her lashes. He stood poker-straight, his gaze riveted to the closed door of the elevator, and his features deadpan. It was like being escorted somewhere for interrogation by the secret service. For heaven’s sake, she wasn’t planning on running away.
If she’d wanted to, she could have walked away from Damon’s high-handed order at the party itself. But no matter how Damon had worded it, he had rescued her from Cass and he’d cared enough to think she might be tired after her flight from France. Was he finally thawing towards her? It was strings of hope, but it was far more than anything she’d had this past month and she was going to latch on to it with all her strength.
She cast Roger another covert glance. She had to get Damon alone somewhere he couldn’t walk away from her. But how?
The elevator pinged and the doors in front of them slid open revealing the empty car. Roger indicated for her to precede him into the wood-and-brass-lined interior.
And with the seed of a plan forming in her mind, she did so.